I think my dog appreciates me

She does. She can’t say it but she shows it, at least I think she does.  Maybe the world needs a better guide to “working with an insurance agent.”  Here are a few bullet points from 2010.

This is closer to the truth than what I say to myself every day; which is that our customers appreciate us.

Comes on the heels of a bit of a rant between myself and one of our team, in front of a newer member of the team.  In the same stretch where a few customers have left that has been a bit tough to comprehend.  Sure, people leave, it is part of the business.  Even if the 25% rate increase is the cause it is always your fault.  Even with a backlog several weeks long and the ability to be overwhelmed with new people, losses sting.  But, we keep going forward.

The problem with reading a lot and the “current content, content, content,”  and ” please don’t forget me even if I am not worth remembering”the world is sometimes ignorance seeps through and people are writing to be seen not to convey information.  This is somewhere in the middle.

Most people have no clue or interest just how murky it is behind the scenes of auto and home insurance.  I read about a merger last night and my very first thought of the 9 billion dollar merger was “I hope that company can now figure out how to stop mailing EVERY document to us.”   But, as usual, the direction is forward.

The article of the week was two silly insurance companies, one old and one new, spending money on advertising instead of on their customers.  With the old one also using a B-List celebrity and a couple of NBA players to make their “point.”  In quotes because there really wasn’t one of any value.  Just another example of insurance dollars being spent frivolously.  Oh, and there is actually no way an agent, whose primary compensation is commission based, can spend that much time on claims.  Especially if working for a captive carrier.

And, appreciation is not the point.  Built into our system are several procedures to eliminate things.  Namely, even though the losses sting, our flow of new business far exceeds the people leaving.  And, even having this, we have other procedures in place to reduce the lost customers.  Both of these and their sub-elements work and work well.  And, as I said and will continue to say, we need to have enough pride that it stings, momentarily, and then shrug our shoulders and keep going.


Awesome marketing opportunity

But it is in disguise.  See, everything can be classified as marketing or in it’s subcategory branding.  This post, even this post from November 2011 updated in 2015  

I could use words to rewrite the same things today and it would be valid, and also useless.  So, let us use words differently and simply make a different point based on the same thing.

  • Your rate increases allow us to build our brand stronger while weakening yours
  • Your rate increases prove that you have no faith in your actuaries and your distribution methods.  Could even say a lack of faith in your capital investment strategy
  • Your rate increases show a complete lack of understanding of how word of mouth works.  It’s been publicized many times and, although I think it is tough to prove, negative news travels faster.  This is a societal flaw.
  • Net Promoter Score is a useless measurement created by professors and marketers.  Here is a simpler measure; If you have 1000 customers, are you receiving at least 500 referrals a year?  Simple, shouldn’t half your customers think enough of you to share you with friends?
  • Still firmly believe that one of if not the biggest and boldest marketing moves is to freeze rates for 12, better to do 24 months, and advertise the heck out of that.  You’ll simultaneously prove that price optimization is awesome when used correctly and add huge amounts to your top and bottom line.

Oh, and I have been operating this way, mostly successfully, for 8 years.  Sure, some of this is theory, but most are already in practice.

Paragraph rants, what if

Attempted to use some voice to text stuff and it produced some really odd paragraphs.  Reinterpreting them a bit below;

  1. Is your marketing plan simply to produce enough content aka noise, so that one or more algorithms will help people “find” you?  I am not sure that, as a strategy, this is much more than hedging your fear of not knowing where the next deal is coming from.  Hope is not a strategy, nor is relying on things you do not have control of, like algorithms.
  2. The family was on a walk on a nice local path.  On occasion, you would find benches.  In this case, we were a half a mile or so into the walk and there it was, the same bench but covered in advertising.  Cool, you sponsored a bench.  I like it.  But do I need to see your phone number in the middle of the woods?  Do you like that you are interrupting people during leisure time?  How many people walk with a pen and paper?  Oh wait, maybe they’ll take a photo. Exactly, now I might have found a customer who was strolling on a walking path.  Might be time to figure our who your customer actually is.  Then, decide if you actually want the person who knows nothing more than that they saw(were interrupted by, your advertising.
  3. Measure yourself against whoever you want.  But, falling into the trap of thinking your NPS or JD power score, matched against your industry, matters, think again.  If you have a call center, who has THE BEST call center.  Period.  Maybe you need to be more like Zappos.  Saying you are the best call center in an industry not known for service is not a great idea.
  4. Get back to helping people buy insurance.  Sure, Jim Rohn, Harvey McKay, Tom Hopkins, etc. all had very lucrative sales training, motivational, type careers. You might as well.  But, on the other hand, while you are producing marketing videos and blogs the industry is suffering, Your brain power and time are diluted away from the problems that need solving.
  5. Empower the people!!  Had a couple of really nice exchanges with call center people lately. But, they inevitably fell flat.  Why?  Because these wonderfully empathetic people were not empowered to do anything.  They simply had to perform their task, their step in the assembly line.  Such a shame.

Time for an annual review

Cleaning out some drafts I apparently never published, the paragraphs below(italics) were from February 2015.  Updates and comments in regular type.

Reviewing your insurance could be the most critical piece of personal finance.  Until the process can be automated it is on you and me to do it.  In this case, since it is just my insurance it is all on me.  I first wrote about this over five years ago.  If you searched the word “review”‘ on this site you would get several different takes.  Mostly coming from a variety of things that happened.  Here is a fresher look since my policies just renewed.  Yes, it actually happened just shy of three weeks ago and yes the paperwork has been on my desk since late December.

Why?  Well, the first thing you and I do is look at rates.  The home rate was about even and the auto rate went down.  Immediately I lost all urgency.  I also know that between my wife and I there are a handful of tickets and accidents that, like it or not, are still currently relevant to the rate.  You have to look at your rates.  PERIOD.  No, this does not mean to only shop on price, it just means you have to look at your price.  This is normal human behavior. And, like it or not, you have been conditioned by the industry to this.  BUT,  behind the scenes underwriting is tougher now than at any point during my 15+ years doing this.  We have begun to advise not canceling a lot of new property policies until we know any unplanned inspections have been completed.  Oh, and remember,  auto and home insurance + the U.S. consumer = commodities colliding.

Moving along to some detail;


  • cover the basics; name, address, drivers, etc. So disappointing that so much of this can be automated and pre-filled yet common apps fill it in an insurance quoting sites do not. This is basic stuff and the compounding time is huge.
  • Check the discounts, everything there that you thought would be? Tricky, tricky thing.  Discounts are not what they once were.  You are being “rated” more ways than you or I can count. Remember, asking is often the surest way to getting but, sadly, even if you get it, you may be disappointed.
  • Has your use of the vehicle(s) changed?  Fewer miles typically means lower rates. Telematics will replace this….but not until companies understand how to apply telematics.  Either way, mileage questions border on irrelevant.
  • Remember, a multi-policy discount can be substantial.  likely need to move both plans if shopping.  This may be the biggest flaw in the entire price shopping landscape.  Not quite fraud but certainly some ethical implications.  Multi-policy discounts are potential ENORMOUS. Not disclosing this to a homeowner who is doing an auto quote is a mistake.


  • An escrow account is wonderfully convenient and very dangerous to your wallet.  Leaving just about any piece of your financial world unchecked is a bad idea
  • The compound effect is real and can have a profound impact on home insurance.  Sure, your coverage went up by a small percent this year but when it is 3-5 years later those percentage increases are magnified.  Pro-tip, many homeowners get a discount for something called “inflation guard” or similar.  Essentially, if you let us increase your coverage automatically we’ll “thank you” with a discount.  This often goes unnoticed but is important.
  • Where is your company flexible?  Some are with other structures.  Some with personal property.  Most aren’t with the main dwelling coverage.  Untapped but large opportunity for improvement here.  Not a full-on customization of a policy but certainly room here.
  • Fact is you are getting all sorts of coverage that look good on paper but really do not do much.  it is what it is.  Often said to older customers when comparing policies “Remember, there was likely nothing wrong with your home insurance from 20 years ago.  All these extras look nice but aren’t much….”  Google the insurance silos and this is another example of them not talking.  Lemonade did some funny writing on this as well.  This piece of coverage is overdue for an (r)evolution.


Your own diligence is huge.  Always has been likely always will be

Finding clever tools to help evaluate the replacement cost of your dwelling and your personal property is huge. This is a whole other topic and is a mess right now.  Lots of room here as well.  Don’t believe me?  Go look in your area at the price to BUY a brand new home.  Then realize that every property insurance company has a different version/idea of what that will cost to rebuild.  Many, or most of, will be laughed at by the builder.



Just keep in touch

In the last week, a customer left, no news there, but I have donated to a fundraiser they did and do sort of know them. Yesterday, another customer came in with a gift for me and one of our team.  Actually very tasty olive oil.  The first one checks more “boxes” that most companies look for and spent at least twice as much with us.  The second spends half the amount of money and doesn’t “fit” common profiles of what a company wants.  Below was written May 2014 and has only been updated thanks to Grammarly.

Really, everything a company or a salesperson does seems to be geared towards a sale.  So many places online pitch social media success or “how to drive business  with social…”  Why must everything be about growing your business?  How about strengthening the business?  How about increasing profits?  How about simply using your strengths?  Use social to do all the things that your massive competitors cannot do?  How about realizing that before you spend money to advertise on social or run a contest or promote a post that there are a dozen or so free things that you can do that many of your larger counterparts cannot do.

So I come at this from the side of a developing insurance brokerage.  We tend to work with a pretty select clientele.  There is no advertising done.  So some thoughts;

  1. Before you spend any money, take some time and effort to get to know the people you already have in place.  Seriously, before you head out and get more customers or spend money solidify what you have in place.  Have you LinkedIn with everyone?  Have you shared a Facebook Page with them?  Looked for them on Twitter?
  2. How about recommendations?  Both LinkedIn and Facebook provide excellent opportunities for all these people you already know to say(type) nice things about you.  Just ask.  Start with the ones you think you know best.  While you are at it go and recommend the places you know and the people you have worked with.
  3. How about charity?  In my world, I doubt Geico will ever donate to a local charity and seriously why would your business simply donate to any charity or take out an advertisement in some sort of program just for the heck of it.  Support those that support you.
  4. We know large companies are very good at spamming.  In fairness, small companies can be as well.  Try and ignore the urge.  Seriously, double down on your efforts to keep up with existing customers.
  5. Do the things they do not or cannot; share the posts your friends and customers put up.
  6. Can your large counterparts refer their own customers to each other? Yes, Do they? NO, You can do this.  Connect the web of people you have around you and try and strengthen the weak ties.
  7. Instead of talking about rates be a resource.  Help make logical decisions,  Make an effort to bring them business instead of just taking their money
  8. Cracks me up when I see some sort of “canned” blog article appear on various sites.  I am also thoroughly amused by useless articles on Yahoo Finance and other sites.  Its like they have ten or so articles and simply make an effort to put out useless tips once a week.

Just embrace the fact that you are small and enjoy the heck out of it.  Why wouldn’t you?

Anonymous and the Call Center

Really liked updating this post from October 2013, still is 100% accurate even if I could change a few things, I didn’t.  Being a resource can be interpreted a few ways; you are actually the resource, the one getting things done.  Or, you are the resource because you shared one.  So some moments from the week;

Overheard a call coming into one of the offices, sort of recognized the name.  Turns out it was a customer who started with us two years ago.  I was the resource then, helped insure a new home, made significant improvements to auto insurance coverage.  Then, we sort of helped find some coverage when an “uncovered” claim occurred.  But, then our friend Price Optimization stepped in.  But, I was also a “resource” or at least a contributor to a fundraiser a few years later.  But, alas, our growth is hindering some processes and the anonymous, doesn’t live in your town, doesn’t know your family call center person “won.” this one.  Annoyed and this will get its own post.

Having a tough time with an endorsement and an underwriter.  Nothing new, sadly.  Fortunately, a non-anonymous marketing rep stepped in to help sort things out.  A person who I see a couple of times a year.  Outstanding, cheers to the non-anonymous!!

It even happened again, a goofy claims thing, so I reached out to a person who I have met and has helped me before.  Thankfully, some help arrived.

I’m on the receiving end of a lot of calls and emails.  None of which come from any sort of advertising.  ALL of them come from people who, thankfully, have vetted me and are willing to pass my name and number along.  But, I, and maybe you, have seen anonymous reviews still have a place in society.

Another one from a 10 year plus customer who was questioning her current company.  Yes, there was something odd about their billing.  But, it really is an anomaly.  As I told her, you can look up any of the ten main companies we work with and find all sorts of negative information on ALL OF THEM.  But, much of this information is in fact ANONYMOUS.

This isn’t to say it is false, it is just to say, why are you so accepting of the opinion of strangers?

I applaud those of us IN THE ARENA, and yes it is an appropriate reference even if embellished.  Although I saw at least one product that leads with anonymous reviews, I still applaud their underlying thesis. I just disagree with anonymity and think it is not just stupid, but really f’n stupid to accept anonymous opinions.

This comes on the heels of reading a post from a really strong company who was left off some stupid list.  F them.  I know it takes a minute, but go read Ryan Holiday’s trust me I’m Lying or Robert Cialdini’s Influence.  If read together, watch out for what your eyes and brain will open up to.  I say screw them.  BUT, back to the link to the October 2013 post and you’ll see it is up to us, your people around you even if loosely affiliated, to step in and provide some insight.  Your circle, your people, your crew, your network, your family, your world THAT is who you should hear but only after you hear yourself, your gut, your instinct, first. 

Opening > Closing ?

One of the better things about working with “newer” people is you get to rethink both positive and negative moments.  Analyzing a situation and the steps create a refresher course for me and have even helped open my eyes to missed, unnecessary and better steps that can benefit all of us;

This post on closing vs. opening has continued to come up.  Sometimes it comes out as ” Just go make some new friends and see what happens…”  other times as ” Just see how you can help them..”  or “See if he/she is going to that event and if not invite them”

I get it, closing a sale gets you paid.  Sure it does. It pays you today or whenever your commission comes.  But, haven’t you had the experience when someone is pushing you through a sales script and you catch on a few steps in?  It just feels icky to me.  I’m not sure what the other word is, or even if it is one word, but here are a few things that have come up;

  • A sure sign you have “done your job” which is essentially translating verbal trust to the moment when a payment comes, is when the person is handing you payment information and not exactly sure of the payment amount.
  • A similar moment to this is when you feel them “closing” themselves.  You know you can skip some steps and get to the point.
  • When a long time customer relays a heartfelt message to a co-worker who then transcribes it for you to read.  That right there is as important as a close.  Why? Because it goes beyond the transaction.

When you close a sale, by definition, it means an end.  A process has come to a close.  Is that really what you want?  Do you want this new person to simply be closed?  Do you really think your silly take out a piece of paper and ask them to take out their phone to give you referrals(insert vomiting noise here) is as good on a closed person or better on an open one?  Yes, this forgets your tactic is past its time.

What if you were instead always keeping an eye on what could be next?  What opportunities could be opened by this transaction/interaction/sale/relationship start, etc?


Dynamic underwriting exists…and somehow it is bad for customers

I’ve had my own run of claims as well as some others going on lately.  Fortunately, an occurrence that could have been claimed, sort of,  and a basic “How to handle a claim post”

Both are still accurate and both are somewhere between far from the truth and not enough.  I’ve long thought insurance functions as much like a credit card or bank loan than what people expect from insurance.  But, maybe I’m also abusing or misusing the word dynamic a bit.

Is your insurance re-underwritten year to year?  Sort of but in my experience, not completely.  See it is quickly reviewed and assessed for negative things like claims.  Sure, you may not see a surcharge for that accident but look closer.  See, you have a tier assigned to you and if that changes you’ll also likely see your rate go up.  Hence, dynamic underwriting….but not really.

But I was married this year or completed college this year or bought a house this year.  Don’t those things help?  Sure, sort of.  But, not completely in the live environment.  See, adding a second car and a spouse will find you multi-car savings but doesn’t typically adjust for your spouse or partners credit score or college degree that you don’t have.

An agent needs to know this and also needs to know the how and when to adjust.  But, as with all things, there is a cost associated with this.  The company does not bear the burden of keeping a customer.  In fact, many of their actions make you wonder if they actually want to keep the customer.

So, is it dynamic underwriting or situational dynamic or something else?  So it is much more situational dynamic.  In other words, we’ll be dynamic when it is convenient for us.  Yup.  That is why when David asks about filing a claim I have to have a drawn-out explanation that ends with, I really have no idea if it is a good idea or not. You really just have some sort of “loan” that sometimes functions like insurance, other times functions as a credit card with 6 months interest-free and no payments that you better read the fine print on.

Until an insurance company wants customers from top to bottom in the organization, this is unlikely to change.

Situational reading

I wrote, “Want to improve your world, start with reading this..” and I suppose I meant it in October 2012.  But, since then I’ve changed quite a bit and so has the world.

Coincidentally, I am in a bit of a reading lull.  My morning reading time is absorbed by writing and a larger project that needs to get done.  I also have several books and magazines backed up.  Fortunately, there is Audible and still a fair amount of driving happening so I am not completely without.

Although I vaguely remember that book, I do not follow either author anymore.  My needs and tastes have evolved.  That book is still likely solid but maybe not “right” for my situation.  What does that mean?

I mean there are a couple of go-to books I have for just about anyone who is new to working with me.

  • Think and Grow Rich
  • The Compound Effect
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People

Really tough to go wrong with any of these for ANYONE in an environment where they will be expected to perform and spend there time engaging with other people.  Beyond that, it can get very specific to what your needs are at the moment.

  • Harvey McKay wrote some excellent books
  • Franklin’s and Hamilton’s biographies are amazing
  • Richard Branson has led a heck of a life
  • Anything by Seth Godin

But, if you dive deeper, you can find some more history and several older books that are no longer published.  Why?  It took a while, but it finally dawned on me that there are all sorts of books and all sorts of “authors.”  That it makes sense to take recommendations from people you admire but it is also a good idea to read books referenced in other books you enjoy.

One of the traps I have fallen into is thinking that reading posts and articles is the same as reading a book.  They are not.  Although reading is important.  Reading for the sake of reading hasn’t done much for me.  If anything, it frustrates me a bit because I read an article, even if only for a few minutes, and then have the same sinking feeling as when I pass the fridge or snack drawer and eat something just because I passed by.

Just because it is there doesn’t mean it is worth reading….or eating.

But, back to reading.  Some basics;

  • Yes, my tastes will not be yours, even if there is some overlap.
  • It’s tough to filter the noise now but since publishing a book is part of a business plan instead of just a way to pass knowledge, be careful.
  • If you have no background in business or sales yet write about business or sales, it is tough to take you seriously
  • I appreciate all the professors hiding in academia that publish books based on research.  Seriously, I do.  Just not nearly as much as those of us in the arena doing the work.
  • Many of your “new” sales books are just repackaging of time-tested themes.  Try going to the source.  Find books pre-1970 or even from the 40’s or earlier.
  • Most of us don’t need another sales book, it is a procrastination crutch.  Might be better off getting slapped in the face by Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work
  • It’s a shame book as a business card was, maybe still is, a thing.  It’s mostly just more noise.
  • Careful!  Bestseller or Best Selling Author meant something very different ten years ago.

Happy reading.  Please consider making it part of your daily routine.

Adjusting the how based on who

On occasion, I slip and engage in online dialogue with pundits and consultants who just do not have the same experience, and I as them, but sometimes I take the bait.  It is simple posts like this one that is actually HUGE yet ignored.

I was reminded of this when commenting on a post about Credit Karma.  Yeah for them. They got their California insurance license and will thankfully help feed some headlines for a bit. Then, sometime in the future, they won’t.  But I’ll of still wasted time with people who really are looking to be heard who haven’t actually done what they are writing about.  Shame is on me, not them.

Like me slipping online, the usual pitfalls await new entrants in every segment of Insurtech.  Why? Because the truth doesn’t make good headlines.  Because the work and angles that take time to develop, aren’t known by very many of us.  Because those that are getting headlines are purely in this for the money, which is ok.  BUT, it’ll never be as powerful as those who are here for the money AND to make a positive impact on society.

To the “How” and the “who.”  It is sort of like graffiti.  I have often felt that the person putting graffiti somewhere is simply demonstrating a human need.  They feel neglected.  They want to be remembered and are looking for a reason.  It isn’t a show of love and most of us are more annoyed that you made a mark to prove you were somewhere.  But, you left your mark.  On the other hand, I think the style of graffiti is amazing and when well placed in public spaces is a dramatic enhancement to that area.  Why?  Because there are context and purpose.

A closing note to self;

A complimentary comment is nice.  A comment that brings value to others and shares your fact and experience-based knowledge is nice.  But simply quoting PR pieces and providing opinions that are so far removed seem more like commenting for commenting sake.  The world doesn’t need more posts because your content calendar says so.  It needs them because it brings value and enhances the lives of others.  Dialogue has and likely will always be healthy, this goes for on-line as well, as long as kept civil.  But remember, it is our different experiences that make life interesting.  Share what you know and before unleashing an emotion-fueled sentence, look and see who made the comment.  It is very likely they are just putting some graffiti on the internet.